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Nov 21, 2018

Teachers Protest at Mount Carmel Primary School in Benque

Day-one of a teachers’ protest at Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Primary School in Benque Viejo Del Carmen occurred today in that western municipality. The sit-out by the forty-one teachers at the institution threatens to leave nine hundred and thirty-plus students out of classes for the remainder of the week, which is used primarily as review week in the run-up to exams. At the core of the protest is a number of teachers not being paid and an order to remove a career educator from the classroom, among other issues.  According to the teaching staff, there appears to be a breakdown in communication between the Roman Catholic management and the Teaching Services Commission, but it is not known where the system is failing those affected. News Five’s Duane Moody headed out west to find answers. Here’s his report.

 

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Exams are scheduled for next week, but today, the nine hundred and thirty-seven students of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Primary School were all absent from classes and so were their teachers. The forty-one members of the teaching staff, as well as the principal, gathered under the shed on campus—the group staged a sit-out in protest of issues that have been plaguing the institution for some time now. According to the principal, Melvin Manzanero, three teachers have not been paid their salaries from the last school year; but it was a letter recently received from the Teaching Services Commission, to have a longstanding teacher removed from the classroom, that brought everything to a head.

 

Melvin Manzanero

Melvin Manzanero, Principal, Mount Carmel RC Primary School

“All these issues have been happening in our school, but have reached to a level where our teachers are going to be affected and are being affected. Yesterday, I received a correspondence from the Teaching Services Commission not approving of having a teacher here with us and it is going to affect the school and all the teachers. Correspondence that I received via email from our local manager it has proven that these five teachers that had applied were actually approved. I didn’t receive a black and white stating that, but the correspondence shows that the local manager is to select three teachers out of those five to go on long leave, which he did. To find out afterward that they were not granted approval, which means that the replacement that we got for them didn’t get paid. We are talking about three teachers. By the time we get to find out from the Teaching Services Commission, it is already late, they are already almost finish with their three months.”

 

Fifty-three-year-old Ana Pech has been a teacher for the past twenty-nine-years; she teaches the Infant One class at the primary school. Back in January, the career educator applied for early retirement since her provisional license would have expired on September ninth, 2018. She later asked for a hold on that request and was later granted a special license by the Teaching Services Commission back in August of 2018. So she returned to classes at the beginning of the school year. But since September ninth, she has not been paid and on Tuesday, the principal received a correspondence indicating that she should be removed from the classroom. Pech says it’s like a slap in the face of her dedication to the education system.

 

Ana Pech

Ana Pech, Teacher, Mount Carmel RC Primary School

“My provisional license was supposed to expire on September ninth and I got my special license before my license expired.”

 

Duane Moody

“So you belong in the classroom?”

 

Ana Pech

“Exactly…”

 

Duane Moody

“…but since September, you have not been paid?”

 

Ana Pech

“Yes, since September ninth. I got paid from September one to September ninth and that’s it. Up to now, nothing. And plus I have my children studying—two of them studying—and I need to pay my bills. They are treating me unfairly, twenty-nine years and a half. I’ve given a lot of my students here in Benque. Some of my colleagues here I have taught them and I am teaching their children now.”

 

Holding placards expressing their discontent, the teachers paraded along the pathway on the compound chanting; they are standing in solidarity with those who feel disrespected. Manzanero says that it is a situation that has been unaddressed by the Roman Catholic management, but has been affecting teachers from the four schools in the western region.

 

Melvin Manzanero

“The local manager convened an emergency meeting over the weekend with the principals of the schools, which are four of them and informed us of the issues. We have tried to see for this not to reach at this level, but now it couldn’t go any further because the teachers are aware of this.”

 

Duane Moody

“So you are saying that other schools within this region have been affected as well?”

 

Melvin Manzanero

“Yes, within the catholic management here. Our local manager is immediately responsible for these four schools: we have one in Arenal, one in Calla Creek and one in Succotz and this is one of the largest ones. What will we do with those students under her care? Should we divide the classroom and give it to the other teachers, which they are totally in disagreement? Should we send those kids home, which wouldn’t be the ideal? So we simply want this situation to find out where things are going wrong or where it went wrong.”

 

The teachers have the full support of parents, following a meeting around three p.m. on Tuesday. Gloria Heredia has four children attending the school and says she is disappointed about the manner in which the teachers are being treated.

 

Gloria Heredia

Gloria Heredia, Parent

“I hundred percent support the teachers; it is something that I wouldn’t want happen to no person because I know they depend on their salaries; they have debts just like any human being here. While we were at the meeting, the Deacon came and told us that ministry called and said that they were going to see if they can meet with them on Friday. This is something that is happening countrywide; not only here. And if you stop your demonstration, it is like you giving them the upper hand.”

 

This morning around ten-thirty, a representative from the District Education Office visited the school to find out what was going on. While she was unable to offer a comment due to established protocol, Manzanero says that if there is no favourable response from the Ministry of Education, the teachers will proceed with a demonstration through the streets of Benque on Friday.

 

Melvin Manzanero

“They plan to take it to the streets, but because they need ample time for the permits and everything to be gotten from the necessary authorities, then from there, they plan to take it out to the streets. I haven’t gotten any information from the local manager or from the general manager if any meeting has been called by either of the parties involved. Up to now, I am not aware of it, but if they do, I do believe I will be called upon and I will inform the teachers on what transpires along the way.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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